The last day in Saigon was a hurry up and wait day. Hurry and pack, hurry to the lobby wait for the bus, oops the planes be delayed…..We went to lunch at a soup restaurant across from the Hilton where Bill Clinton ate when he visited Vietnam. The traditional noodle soup is served in a large bowl filled with rice noodles and slices of meat or vegetables, it was a good trade for a delayed plane.
We assumed the flight would be in a very small plane like the one we took to Saigon, we were wrong , it was huge. Hanoi is the capital and many people travel there each day. On the ride into town we passed the only thing that has landed Vietnam a spot in the Guinness Book of World records. A three mile ceramic tile tile mural depicting the daily life and history was commissioned for the Millennium celebration. Townies take note, it was created by a local artist, they did not buy it from Germany. We stayed at the Hanoi Hilton, next to the Opera house. The Hilton had bid on the site of the Hanoi Hilton prison but it was sold to a local concern.
After a very quick fish dinner we checked into our rooms for the night.
Tuesday was a very busy day. We started at the ancient Confucius school of literature. This was the first university in Vietnam and it followed Chinese tradition. After three years of training only those who passed the exam in the top one percent graduated. The names of this elite group were engraved on a tablet that rested on the back of a carved turtle, they were awards eight hundred dollars, eight servants and eight horses. They returned to their home province were they were celebrated by all. They became Mandarins, consultants to the emperor. Those who did not pass were allowed another try, when they passed their names were inscribed in smaller letters on the tablet. Students celebrating their graduation today often come to this site as part of their festivities. While the university is no longer active the influence of Confucius on daily life is still profound.
Ho Chi Min’s mausoleum was the next stop. Uncle Ho’s body had been out for additional preservation and cleaning. It was on public display for the first time in several weeks. The area is under strict security and all visitors were expected to behave with the utmost respect as we filed past the body. I was chastised because my hands were behind my back and not at my side. Since he died during the war and his body was hidden in a cave there remain many skeptics about the authenticity of the body.
We boarded the bus for lunch. Vietnam traffic is difficult to imagine, if you stood on the corner of Stadium and Main and all the traffic from all the football games from the season converged on that spot at the same time you might be close to daily traffic in Saigon or Hanoi. The side streets are very narrow, barely wide enough for a bus, so the
bus frequently dropped us at a corner. Today we were dropped on street with open bins of hardware and told to turn right at the yellow motorcycle. The restaurant served us the best meal in Vietnam. Soup, fish spring rolls, eggplant, Calamari, cabbage, pork and a banana dessert. Following lunch we went on an electric car ride around the city. Then we attended a water puppet show. Water puppets were designed by farmers and they told stories about life on the farm, both good and bad. The stage is covered with water and the puppet controls are submerged.
Following the puppet show we shopped until Mary dropped.